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Peter Szijjarto: No #refugeeswelcome in Hungary?

Caroline Schmitt September 29, 2015

Protecting a country's borders at the cost of decency? The Hungarian government's harsh line on refugees sparked outrage; now Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto defends the police's actions on Conflict Zone.

Peter Szijjarto bei Conflict Zone
Image: DW

Peter Szijjarto on Conflict Zone

This week's guest on Conflict Zone is Peter Szijjarto, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was born in Komarom in 1978 and studied international relations and sports management at the Corvinus University of Budapest. Szijjarto became the youngest member of the Municipal Assembly of Györ and joined the National Assembly of Hungary in 2001. Until 2006, he was also the youngest member of parliament.

He served as spokesperson of Prime Minister Viktor Orban from 2010 until 2012, and took the chair on a total of eight committees set up to improve economic links with Hungary's neighboring countries. In September 2014, Orban appointed him Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Is Hungarian refugee response xenophobic?

Szijjarto currently faces sustained criticism regarding his government's treatment of refugees entering or trying to enter Hungary from abroad. In an attempt to "protect its borders" and "regain control", the Orban government used tear gas and water cannons on refugees, and constructed razor wire fences to stop people from entering Hungary through Serbia or Croatia.

On September 17, UN human rights official Zeid Raad al-Hussein said he was "appalled" by the response of Hungarian authorities: "Images of women and young children being assaulted with tear gas and water cannons at Hungary's border with Serbia were truly shocking." He also deplored "xenophobic and anti-Muslim views that appear to lie at the heart of the current Hungarian Government policy."

On Conflict Zone, Szijjarto defends his government's actions by insisting that Hungarian policemen were only defending themselves and that many were injured in what he categorized as an attack on the country's border. He also calls the quota system for distributing refugees among EU countries "nonsense" and maintains that no religious minority has to be "afraid of anything" in his country.

Szijjarto under pressure. How will he respond to the serious allegation that Hungary's policies on refugees are xenophobic? Find out on #dwZone on September 30.